Last week, I provided tips on taking photographs of indoor, non-sports school activities. This week, I’ll provide some advice on photographing high school night football.
This requires some pretty serious camera gear. Here’s a minimum of what I recommend for football under the lights:
• Film or digital single-lens reflex camera with interchangeable lenses and a motordrive.
• Telephoto lens of at least 200mm with an aperture of f2.8.
• Auxiliary flash.
• Monopod or tripod (optional).
Early in the season, football games will be played under a good mix of daylight and stadium lights, and you can manage good shots without all the above gear. But by mid-season it will be dark at kickoff.
When I walk into most night football games, I know that my exposure will be around f2.8 at 1/250th second at ISO 3200. If you lock on those settings and use a 200mm or longer telephoto lens you have a good chance of getting usable shots.
To add a little extra light on the players, I often mount an auxiliary flash on my camera, set the flash to an automatic setting and then dial down the flash exposure compensation one full stop. By doing this you are still letting the ambient light of the stadium do most of the illumination and using the flash to add a little fill light to the players. A motor drive will enable you to shoot a series of quick shots to capture peak action as it develops. The monopod, a pole used to help support your camera, will help steady your camera when using longer lenses.
You’ll get better photos if you leave the stands and head down to field. As a credentialed member of the media, I have access to most of sidelines but must stay out of the way of coaches, players and officials. If you choose to shoot from field level, I suggest photographing only from the back of the end zones or on the track between the end zones and the 20-yard line. This is usually a fairly accessible area for photographers.
Because even a 200mm lens can’t cover all the action on a football field, you will need to wait for the action to come to you or move with the action. When covering a team on offense, I position myself ahead of the line of scrimmage about 10 to 20 yards to anticipate the ball moving my direction. When photographing the defense, I’ll get behind the other teams offensive line to photograph players rushing the quarterback.
It should be an exciting with new fields for both Lawrence public high schools and Bishop Seabury Academy. Good luck and just be mindful of other photographers around you and stay clear of officials and players.